Belgium approves EU Canada trade pact

Work on the agreement started in 2009 and the text finalized two years ago

October 28, 2016
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

BRUSSELS—Lawmakers in the Belgian region that held up an important new trade pact between the European Union and Canada officially approved the deal October 28.

Parliamentarians in the French-speaking region of Wallonia voted by 58 votes to five, with no abstentions, to support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Regional parliament president Andre Antoine said that “Europe must also pass by Wallonia.”

Wallonia blocked the deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians for several weeks, deeply embarrassing the bloc.

The EU needed unanimity among all its 28 members and Belgium needed the backing of all its regions to approve the pact.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been due to sign CETA with EU leaders in Brussels, but was forced to cancel his flight.

Work on the agreement was launched in 2009 and the text was actually finalized two years ago but sat in limbo awaiting endorsement.

Antoine thanked the lawmakers for working in “real democratic transparency.”

“This closes two years of work,” he said after voting finished.

Politicians in Wallonia had argued that the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies. Supporters said it would yield billions in added trade through customs and tariff cuts.